My last post of 2015 began with a reference to a train trip in Holland. With me on that trip was a young student from Stellenbosch, Johan van Huyssteen, who travelled with me to Belgium for a two-week exchange between Stellenbosch and Leuven students. I wrote about those two weeks here.
This morning I received the tragic news that Johan had died after slipping and falling 60m down a waterfall on his family’s farm in the Eastern Cape.
I have no words to express my utter disbelief that someone with so much vitality and enthusiasm for life is gone. There are many joys of our job as teachers and mentors, and during those two weeks in Leuven I experienced many of them. But that makes the loss of a young student like Johan even more heartbreaking. It is not only the loss of life, but the loss of potential unfulfilled that I find truly devastating.
I knew Johan only for a short few months, but there are many others that had the pleasure to know him much longer. My thoughts are with his parents and family, classmates (Johan studied agriculture), and fraternity friends (he was a Pieke onderprim) and my colleagues who worked with him in the various leadership structures.
It is moments like this when the busy world that surrounds us comes to an abrupt halt. Let us pause at the start of 2016 to not only celebrate Johan’s life, but to reflect on what it is we value and dedicate our most valuable commodity – time – to this year.